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Cincinnati Observatory

In 1842, Cincinnati professor Ormsby Macknight crowdsourced over $7,500 to buy a telescope, which the Cincinnati Observatory would later house. A year later, in 1843, construction began on the observatory to house the new telescope. Former president John Quincy Adams attended the groundbreaking ceremony and laid the building’s cornerstone. It was also at this event that Adams gave his last public speech. By 1845, construction on the observatory became operational. While this was the first observatory in the Western hemisphere, the general public was able to look through the telescope to study the stars, not just the trained astronomers. In 1979, the observatory officially became part of the University of Cincinnati’s physics department for public education and graduate research. During the 1980s, the Cincinnati Observatory was painstakingly restored and its telescopes repaired. This restoration was not enough to prevent the University of Cincinnati from considering selling the observatory to a developer. In response to this proposed plan, neighbors, historians, and preservation activists banded together to save a historical Cincinnati building; they succeeded. These activists also successfully altered the Cincinnati Observatory’s mission from research to astronomy education, bringing the observatory back to its founding roots when the general public could walk in and look at the stars through the telescope.